From Apartment Life to Van Life

Since leaving New York in June, Pheobe has driven coast to coast. She started with a trip up to Maine. After visiting friends in Portland, she made her way down the East Coast and through Tennessee. From Nashville, she made her way out West to see her family in California before driving north. Pheobe doesn’t have a favorite part of the trip. “Our country is huge and there’s so much to see.” A recent stop in Bozeman, Montana, holds a special place in her heart because of the people she met there.

Rarely do you see on social media less than a glamorous part of van life. Going for a few days without a shower is common. As is wiping down cutlery instead of washing with soap. Some van builds are luxurious. They have full showers and toilets. But for those on a budget such as Pheobe, they make do with what they can. They rely on gym memberships, the kindness of strangers and baby wipes. When there wasn’t a restroom nearby, Pheobe had to get creative. “I used a pee jar for the first time on Sunday and now it is forever the pee jar. I loved that jar, too. I was sad!”

Vans aren’t the only vehicles people live out of. Ambulances and old school busses (known as “schoolies”) are also popular when people need more space. Christina Reed and her husband lived in a schoolie for three years. They started their family in a bus they parked on a plot of land. “Living in a bus let us travel to see family and friends really easily,” she said. “And the kids loved it. They see school busses and want to stop for pictures!” The lower cost of living in a tiny home allowed her and her husband to save money to build the cabin they now live in. The bus is parked on their land and used when they want to take a trip.

When traveling, the family plans accordingly. Because of brutal weather, many van lifers plan their trips around the seasons. In the winter, they’ll go to warmer regions. In the summer, they move up north. “It gets hot,” Christina recalled. “In the summer it can get really hot and in the winter it can be cold. It’s hard to insulate a bus. We eventually installed an AC unit.”

For the future, neither Pheobe nor Christina have any concrete plans. Pheobe knows she has a lot of opportunities opening up to her with the nomadic life. “I’ve been so open to everything on this trip,” Pheobe said when she reflected on the last few months. “I think it’s really rewarded me.”